Friday, December 23, 2011

A Very Social Christmas and A Happy Connected New Year

I want to wish everyone, whether you celebrate Christmas or other seasonal festivities, a very happy holiday season and a great new year with many new opportunities for creative growth.
From the title you may guess that I am talking about social media, which I am, but more about how I try to fit within that world.

Taken in 1955 in Denmark at 4 years old and trying to be a grown-up

I believe that, like many people, I seem to have those social connections that you need to link with other people. This works fine if I need to talk or connect with someone but I’m not sure how my articles about photography and other art works all fit within the new worlds of social media. How do I remain fresh and new with all these social outlets competing for the same information.

I have My Camera World Blog this and there is a corresponding Facebook page

There is also my art blog ' Niels Henriksen Artworks ' where I post articles about my artwork, whether a painting, fine art photography or other mediums. This is again is matched on Facebook with Facebook - Niels Henriksen Artworks 

Who says all self portraits have to be ugly. Well maybe they are.

There is also just plain old me on Facebook at Niels Henriksen. This Facebook page was initially just to connect with people I talk to regularly but I find I do post mostly about my photography and paintings.
I have also loaded some of my photographs on Niels Henriksen on Flickr
Please take the time to connect and I'll connect back so I can see some of your photographs.

My first studio work where I placed my model battle ships and tried to created a war scene. DOF and focus what's that.

Then there’s my Linkedin page which is only visible if you are on linkedin and we have connected.

Since we are heading back to San Miguel de Allende for 3 months in Jan I have contacted people about conducting walkabouts with some basic photography lessons included. More than 20 people have shown an interest. To help co-ordinate these walk-abouts and share photos I created a Facebook page ' San Miguel de Allende Photography Club '.

Even at 12 years of age I had penchant for the abstract. Honestly this was not an accidental shot, at least that's what I say now.

And just lately I've signed on to Goolge+ but as yet haven’t posted anything and that’s the dilemma. How do I remain somewhat fresh across all the media outlets? I just don't want to re-post the same material available on other sites. I don't mind using some of the same images if there is some contextual difference for the audience.

This year I want to get a better handle on the whole social media culture and ensure that on each site there is something new and relevant to the reader.

I sure would like to here how you are handling your multiple media streams with your content or any ideas about what would work.

Please feel free to connect with me on any or all these social sites as I'm happiest when I'm connected with you.

Niels Henriksen

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What to do When a Photo is Missing Parts

There are times when I'm walking around enjoying the scenery and occasionally taking what I think are interesting photographs around town and I forget to compose correctly. This is normally not noticed until I review them later as I tend not to look at each shot when taken.

This is a different shooting mode than when I really want something special. Then the histogram is reviewed and for images with strong contrast several exposures may be taken. And if tripod is available it will be used.

The above image is the final edited version that I wanted but failed to capture correctly.

Part of the problem is that I wear glasses and sometimes I don't remove them when looking in the camera view finder. I do when the image is critical but for shoot and grab shots I tend to place viewfinder only on the glass face and if I don't line up correctly the image is off centre to what I see.

If you have taken several photos then there may be parts in others that you can use to correct test perfect sections.

In the 3 photos combined below, the far left image is the one I wanted (#1) but as you can see, it's missing parts like the feet and sidewalk. The 2 other photos (middle #2 and right #3) are ones I used to fill in missing sections and cover parts that needed to be removed. The big problem with the other photographs is that they are from different angles and perspectives and therefore, a direct overlay to match parts will not work. You will need to stretch, twist and rotate a little to make the parts fit.

In the next composite photo below with the main image, I extracted the parts of each section that was used to reconstruct the final photograph.

Image #1 provides a good frame-work (base layer) for the whole of photo, except I wanted the lady in image #2
Image #2 was cut and placed on a separate layer and set to difference mode to make it easier to see when frame matches as it all turns black. I needed her bottom feet from another image (#3) to finish off her legs.
There was still the problem of the missing parts of the steps from part #2 which was added by image #4.

Rather than placing a whole copy of another image on top and using masking for desired parts and moving around, I recommend only cutting out the main parts from another file and copying to the working file. The reason for this is that when you zoom in on a large image to examine the fit, the handles are no longer available to use for positioning as these are at the edges of image. By only using a cropped parts, the handles for positioning are now just outside the smaller part and available for use even when zoomed in.

This is a lot of work and not for everyone. It would be easier to retake the photograph, if possible, but if you're on vacation or it's an impromptu moment, it may not be possible. This process allows you to get the photograph that you wanted but somehow missed.
I do realize that I need to be more careful when using glasses and maybe a monocle for the other eye would work. This is one advantage that EV viewfinders on back of camera work well for people with glasses.

Niels Henriksen

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review – Serengeti – The Eternal Beginning

I was excited to get the opportunity to review a photography book that wasn't technical in nature. It gave me a chance to read for once and not have to think about the technical merits about the subject material being discussed.

At first I thought it might just be a pure photography book, nothing but pictures and little text. When it arrived I realized that there was a fair amount of story that surrounded the photos. The story about the Serengeti was very interesting and unique and an important part of the book.

Book Title: Serengeti – The Eternal Beginning
Author: Boyd Norton
ISBN: 978-1-55591-593-3
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Hard cover - 265 pages

The Review
One of the first things that struck me about the book was the experience and depth that the author 'Boyd Norton' had with this area of Africa. While its not exactly clear, it appears that he has spent more than 25 years visiting and getting to know this area intimately about the life and its nuances in the Serengeti.

The book is not only about Serengeti as its title suggests but also includes the Maswa Game Reserve, Ngorongoro conservation area, Loliondo Game controlled area and the Masai Mara National Reserve. As with most geographical features, country boundaries do not define its scope.

This geographical area defines the coverage, for the most part of the 'Great Migration' that we are all familiar with. Where thousands upon thousand of larger African animals such as wildebeests are seen to run for thousands of miles in search of food as the weather patterns change. While the predators lie in wait for the dinner train to run by.

The author discusses the parks earliest beginnings when there wasn’t a park but only early explorers and big game hunters. The early problems all countries seem to have when they want to control activities within an area with competing demands from indigenous groups, expanding farming base and other users of the resources.

This is not only a book about the big and small animals that are found here but about the life of the people who have lived here for aeons. It’s interesting to read how the locals, weather patterns and what was a perfect balance of nature all worked together to create a faultless ecosystem. Especially when you think of this place as the dawn of human kind some 3-4 million year ago.

The author’s writings give a life to photos that are not apparent directly from the photos. As an example, he discusses how certain rock outcrops called Gol Kopjes seems to have extra gravity that applies only to the big cats. In that whenever they arrive on these outcrops the local rock gravity immediately pulls them flat on the rock and holds them for hours.

The book covers the Great Migration when it seems most of the life in the Serengeti is on the move and about the carnivores who patiently wait for their turn at the Great Feast or migration as we call it.

The next chapter is about the lions which is a fascinating subculture all unto itself. Who gets to lead, who eats and who gets to live with the group.

The 4th chapter is about Ngorongoro which is the remains of a huge volcano called a caldera, like a giant cauldron. In this crater life is different due to its unique ecosystem.

The next chapter deals with creatures both large and small and how like any balanced system they each depend on each other for survival. From control of foliage to providing food for the predators. If your visit is to only see the big game animals then you are missing so much more about the life in the Serengeti.

The next chapters deal each with the other more famous of the big African animals such as the Rhino, Leopard, Cheetah and Elephant and how they live and communicate. There are personal stories around each encounter with the wilds of Africa and this is what makes this book more exciting than just a lot of photos.

There is Anna who can talk Rhino talk and the perception that they are stupid is really outdated. There are also the Acadia trees who can communicate when the giraffes arrive for dinner.

Recommended Audience

This book doesn’t tell you how to use your camera or take better photographs, which I'm glad as sometimes we just need stories that surround images we are seeing. Inspiration rarely comes from a technical how-to-manual.

I now know that if I were to go on an African photo safari I would not expect or want a 1 or 2 day quick tour and photo-op around the park. The book has conveyed to me that there is just so much more to see and experience that it can only be fully appreciated if you take the time to watch and wait. When there, live in the flow of the Serengeti's life.

If not for yourself then this would make a great gift for any friend who has been talking about going on an excursion to see those big game animals of Africa. A time before man, at least modern man, has had an impact on the natural world.

Link to:
Boyd Norton`s Wilderness Photography website with info on supporting the Serengeti.

I have provided an amazon link for the book, below.

Niels Henriksen

Other than receiving a book to review, which will be given away, I did not or will not receive any remunerations, gifts or any considerations for this review from the publisher, author or anyone affiliated with this book.

Thanks to a comment from Mike I realized that I hadn't fully reviewed the book by also commenting on the photographs within the book.

I found every photo crisp and clear and representative of the its natural environment.

The photos are taken as found and therefore the lighting is natural and not staged. Nor are the images manipulated to give extra punch as I am prone to do. All are color prints with no B&W.

Since most of the animals by nature's design want to blend in with their surrounding there is not always a lot of high contrast, but they all stand out in the photos. The photos are all of the caliber that you would find in the National Geographic magazine.

The front cover image is representative of the quality of images whether they are up close or distant landscapes contained within the book.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reviewing your photographs from Older Archives

Sometimes its just plain fun to go through your archive of older photos. Now with a distant memory of the scenes and events your photographs may appear better than previous scans. This is in part due to that at the time there are too many good photos and those not with the highest rating but still with merit tend to get drowned out.

This image was taken at one of the great Buddhas in Kamakura Japan. The hawk like bird may seem small but this Buddha is very large.  Without the bird it would be hard to understand the scale of this image. It could be in anyone’s home garden. Besides scale the bird helps to give height to statue as there is the appearance that the head is up high where birds soar.

The next image with people in it does convey the scale of the Buddha. In theses type of metal statues the green colors are soft and muted and it is easy for green foliage to overpower the scene. That is why I have mute the greens in the background to give the Buddha statue more visual punch.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu) is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple.  It's the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, at a height of 13.35 meters, surpassed only by the statue in Nara's Todaiji Temple.
The statue was originally built in 1252 and located inside a large temple hall. The temple buildings were destroyed many times by typhoons and a tidal wave in the 14th and 15th centuries. So, since 1495, the Buddha has been standing in the open ground. 

Do take the time to review your collection as there may be hidden gold or at least fond memories of places you've been.

Niels Henriksen.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Playful Indulgences with Adobe Pixel Blender for Photoshop

Sometimes I just find I have a need to play. Not the sand lot type, even though that might be fun, but more along the lines of creativity with my artworks. With painting I can just slop the wonderful colors around and see what happens but clean-up is more effort. But with photography it's not always as easy.

I could throw my camera up in the air with a timed shutter and see what happens, but I am afraid of dropping it and then seeing a lot on money becoming dust on the ground with a broken camera.

Digital editing allows me that freedom and the only cost is my time. Definitely less risky.

I came across a video that shows the use of an Adobe Labs plug-in for Photoshop CS 4&5 called Pixel Bender. Being also a painter I was more interested in the oil painting effects as demonstrated with the image I 'bent' below. I may take this further as I will need to get rid of those bright white objects at the top of frame to make this image useful.

The above image was run once in pixel bender to give texture in the parrot, but I found that the remaining detail was all too much the same and still too fine in detail for the background. I masked out the parrot, used the blending too to see if this would help. Not much, so I ran pixel bender again on several iterations on just the background to get the final image above. I didn’t realize until later that the smudging of texture actually added to the larger texture in pixel bender.

One again for above image I ran pixel bender to get the effect for the chairs and table and then playing around with iterations on just the background and with the smudging tool to get a less contrasty detail here.
In trying to use other images to see how they worked it became apparent that for it to work well there should be sufficient detail and contrast in image for it to produce better results. I also noticed that image size from 800 to 4,000 pixels each had different effects. The largest brush size was 15 pixels and with the large images the effects became smaller. 

The 2 photos of the fall scene are identical except for image resolution. The above was 1,000 pixels wide and below was 4,000+ wide

It's easy to see the difference in effects. For the smaller image I even had tor reduce the brush size so as not to over-dominate the bending effect.

From the experiments, or is it playing around, I noticed that when areas were smudged in linear or curved arches it increased the detail effects to make them larger as in the parrot's background and with the same fall scene but with smudging on the trees in image below.

These may not be exactly to your taste but if you are digitally creating painting-type images then by combining different effects for areas within the photograph, a more pleasing painting effect can be created. It is important for any effect type that there be variation in texture detail, size and contrast, like a real painting to create harmony and vision flow within the image.

The most important aspect is to create images that you like and not for others and that you have fun doing this. While I was playing around I completely lost track of time which for me is a sign that my creative juices are really flowing and I'm exploring new avenues.

Please send me some links if you have any digital creations that were just fun and you enjoyed the outcome.

Niels Henriksen

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Photographing Fall Colors – Where is the Vividness That I Saw

Many times I've gone out to photograph the beautiful colors that blanket the trees in Fall. My mind and inner vision is completely lit up with these glowing embers that dance in the wind on the trees. At this moment and place nothing seems more wondrous and somehow these colors seems to permeate deep into my collective thoughts where vivid memories live.

You may wonder why the need for all these flowery thoughts. Its because  when I get home, what I see from the camera is nowhere near as spectacular as how I felt at the time. I do shoot in RAW format and I know that this format from the camera tends to be a little muted but even increasing the vibrancy, it still doesn’t come close to the mind's snapshot.

I think that photographing the wondrous colors of fall is actually a hard thing to accomplish if you want to achieve the vision you had at the moment the shutter clicked.

I believe there are 2 main reasons for this.
First is that the reds, oranges and yellow of the leaves are highly saturated & luminous and beyond the ability of the camera's color gamut to capture. The color space of sRGB and Adobe RGB just don’t extend far enough to record these highly saturated and bright colors.

Second the leaves normally have small moments in the wind and they appear to shimmer, thereby giving them the appearance in the mind's memory of being brighter.

When I took the above photograph the yellows on these 2 trees did appear this bright. They glowed in the afternoon sun and were even brighter, almost like a candle flame, but upon reviewing the camera's result it was duller and more greenish-yellow. The image below is from camera with white balance on birch tree set to neutral white 5300K.

You may find my modified version (1st photo) a bit gaudy but it does reflect how I felt about this scene. I darkened the sky to increase contrast between the 2 yellow tees. I also, for the greenish yellow leaves, shifted the hue to be more yellow and then increased lightness and saturation as much as I could and still retain detail. The grass was also darkened and made cooler, more blue-green, to again increase contrast with the yellow tops.

In the photograph below the sun peeked out near sunset just after the rain had gone by and lit up this singular tree. Again the camera made those leaves less bright and more orange. Once again I increased lightness and saturation towards yellow for the bright leaves. I also added a purplish tint to clouds, (complementary color of yellow) to increase color contrast. I extracted the yellow leaves and increased layer size by 10 pixels and then added a slight blur of about 2 and set this layer to overlay. A pseudo Orton effect to give a glowing effect.

In the next image below, the colors, except for a little vibrancy, remain mostly as captured. I did change the sky from a bright blue to a duller and less saturated version with clouds. The original blue negative space was too dominating and took viewers vision away from the tree colors.

Many of the good fall photographs have lots of cooler and darker tones surrounding bright trees that help make those fall colors more prominent within the scene.

If you have good photo-editing tools don't be afraid to play around and change anything to suit your needs and vision. After all, it's how you saw it at least in your mind.

Niels Henriksen

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Review: Plate to Pixel

This time of year with Thanksgiving festivities happening on both side of the border is a good to think about photographing some of your favorite meals. This book review deals with photographing food, not so much a dinner party or at a restaurant but your own or other's creations that demonstrate the joy and beauty of a well prepared food delicacy.

Title: Plate to Pixel – Digital Food Photography and Styling
Author: Hélène Dujardin
Publisher: Wiley
ISBN: 978-0-470-93213-1

After setting up my own little food studio for raw foods for the SOFOBOMO 2010 book project I thought that this book would be an interesting adjunct with what I learned during the SOFOBOMO project.

The book is soft cover and comprises 256 pages of text and of course many food photographs.

The first 2 chapters 'Photography Basics' and 'Camera Settings and Modes' are the standard materiel that every beginner in photography needs to understand. Her photos demonstrate the effects of white balance (WB) settings, Depth of Field (DOF), ISO settings, exposure and shutter speeds (pouring liquids). Those new to photography find these concepts and terms confusing at first but here the photos show the principles involved.

The next 2 chapters (3&4) deal with Natural Light and Artificial Light. Natural lighting is easy enough to understand with time of day, harsh direct light, soft light with diffuser, using reflectors for bounced light. Under artificial light she shows how to use off-camera flash and some of the smaller lighting accessories for table top studio work. In each case supporting photos are used to show setups and the different lightening effects. Photography is about using or controlling light and how it can accent key focal points with the various moods of light.

Chapter 5 covers composition of food placement within the camera frame and covers subjects from centering to off-center, ¾ placement, DOF, viewing from overhead and at eye levels. It also covers using the rule of thirds, focal point(s) and perspective with item placement.

Chapter 6 covers setting up for capture before you press the shutter. It's about thinking about items in the recipe and how light will interact with these components. Establishing your own work environment and working with clients and their setups and art directors. How to use props to test and plan shots with foods that can fade quickly on the set. Describing a story behind the recipe. Using natural props, surfaces, linens and background to tie elements together. It also covers items using heights and color to create accents and accentuate items.

Chapter 7 is styling and this photographer tends to prefer only natural items that for the most part can be eaten afterward. It's not about using high-tech materials that can't be found in the kitchen. This section has specific sub-sections about bread, nuts, fruits, and vegetables both cooked and uncooked. It covers the main dish for fish and meats and their sauces. Stews, stir-fry, pasta, breakfast baked good and deserts are all covered. Using tools such as tweezers, cotton swaps, drip bottles etc. Many good photos help to demonstrate key points.

Chapter 8 covers the standard digital related items of file transfer, formats, storage and software editing programs. There is also a glossary and a list of the authors photographic equipment and why she uses them. There is also a list of recommended resources from books to websites and stores to buy the various odds and ends that go into foods shoots.

About the Author: 

After leaving her position as pastry chef Helen launched the award-winning blog Tartelette, where she dedicates herself to the art of food, photography and styling. Her food photography and styling work has been praised online and in prints by publications such as Elle magazine. Forbes magazine, The Times Online, Caveur magazine, CNN, Martha Steward and more

Conclusion and Recommended Audience

Food photography may not be for everyone but it is clear that the author/photographer has experience with this genre. Throughout her book she has ample photographs to demonstrate principles as well as discussing the setup and any problems that need to be addressed.

This is not a book about over-the-top food images that have food floating in the air or extreme art shots that may use all sorts of mechanical devices or materials to create the appearance of real food. This book is all about real food found on many peoples dinner tables and at the end of the shot could be eaten by anyone. In fact, one of my favorite things about this book is that it is about real food, something that we might see on our tables

This book is intended for any photographer who has a passion for food and wants produce photos that all will enjoy. It's for the inexperienced photographer with only a point and shot camera or someone who is becoming familiar with a DSLR but wants to understand composition and styling in a home or small studio setup. This is not a book about which camera or lens is better but rather how to use your camera to create interesting food photographs.

I recommend this book for those wishing to peruse food or small studio photography.

Link to Amazon store below.

Niels Henriksen

Disclaimer: Other than receiving a book to review, which will be given away, I did not or will not receive any remunerations, gifts or any considerations for this review from the publisher, author or anyone affiliated with this book.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Photographing the Wonders of Fall Colors

In the northern hemisphere at this time of year there is a great transformation going on with our deciduous trees. Over a 2 week period beginning around the last week of September and then into the first 2 weeks of October the leaves start to loose their green photosynthesis properties and with the inherent nutrients left in the leaves, they come forward in brilliant hues of yellow, orange and red.

As the decay of the leaves continues, these brilliant colours fade to duller browns and yellows, but for a short time it is truly wondrous with the brilliant blanket that covers our landscape.

You would think its easy to go out and capture this kaleidoscope of colors. Simply point somewhere. Press the shutter button and instantly record the scene in front of you. It couldn't be easier. Yet when many people return back home and look at their images on the computer they are rare left wondering where the splendour went. This is really a trick with how the mind records the impressions we see. The mind is really like this perfect DOF instrument that seems to blur not important areas and keeps the key points strong and brilliant. The camera does not work this way.

It's best in many situations to think of the fall landscape as an abstract scene. Therefore, for larger vistas, examine the structure and flow of the patterns within this scene. It definitely is important to use compositional elements of lines and patterns formed by the color patterns to create visual interest within photograph.

With distant trees, use these colourful features to support other elements in the scene such as mountains, rivers or lakes with reflections. To give visual interest for the larger composition.
In many areas there are still lots of evergreens and the fall colors are only interspersed throughout the evergreen canopy. Therefore, you can also isolate specific patches of colour to give a more dominant interest to a patch of color.

Color can also be used to compliment other cooler colours of greens and blues.

At many times it's mainly the yellows that are dominant and any reds and oranges may be hard to find. Do focus on the yellows but provide other visual interests for viewer's attention. People many times will work.

Since the fall foliage is more like an abstract patchwork, don't forget to add in this abstraction with either camera movement or colorful reflections.

Reflections also provide a unique to isolate the complexity by providing context to a water scene.

The key is to get out and first observe and enjoy the splendour of nature. Try and understand what it is about this scene that intrigues you. Then find a solution with the camera that conveys these feelings in the final photograph.

Do forget other venues with fall and its celebratory events of food.

This image reminds me of Mother Goose and her Chicks.

Niels Henriksen

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Close Up Photography with Great DOF

Exploring objects closeup allows me to pursue my fondness for abstractness in trying to see the world around us in a new way. Shallow Depth of Field (DOF) is great for isolating specific parts in a scene and having the remainder fade softly into the background. But there are times, especially if the background is soft or non-existent like the photo below, where full sharpness seems to bring greater clarity (a bit of a pun) to the subject.  I have seen other photographers use the software Helicon Focus to take multiple images at different points of sharpness as you progress further back. The software determines which parts of the image is sharp and then combines your images with only those parts, like layer masks.

5 images combined with settings at f/9, 0.4 sec  @iso 200 with Tamron 90mm macro lens

On some of the images and even the version above, I found slight fringing (light lines) that followed the shape. This was really noticeable with black backgrounds as even a little colour shows up.

In the next image I used a little Photoshop processing to bring out some of the hidden colors in the black cloth as I wanted analogous color, here reddish blue, to support the magenta (blueish red) in the image.
11 images combined at f/8, 1/5 sec, iso 200 with Tamron 90mm macro lens.

In a close up below you can better see those ring lines.

The software does have 3 settings: Methods A &B; smoothing; and radius, which at this time I don't know their functions.  I think this will be a useful tool and therefore I should learn more about this program to better understand its limitations and how to use it correctly.

I believe those lines are caused when the software shrinks some of the further back images, as changing focus further back makes the images larger and software needs to align all parts so they overlap perfectly. This may leave residual edge not fully covered with its mask. Just a guess.

5 images combined at f/8, 1/5 sec @iso 200 with Tamron 90mm lens

This is one of my favourites as intense yellow and purples work well with little darkened and de-saturated green in the stems.

This was a home studio setup with window side-lighting using a tripod and set to time delay to ensure no shake. While I didn't notice any overexposed shots, the software told me the variance (sometimes 20-30%) in lightness for each run. This brightness variance was caused by slight changes, not really noticeable, as the intensity of the clouds changed.

There is a 30 day trial usage and I do suggest that you try this out.
In a future article I will perform an in depth review of this software and even try those full DOF landscape photographs.

Niels Henriksen

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

De-Cluttering to Make room for Creativity

Clutter, it hangs off me like Christmas tree ornaments. Each is different and pretty in their own right. Some are old and a bit tarnished like my parent's words.  Not actually their words but my attempt to follow  their advice. Some are newer and seem better built, like the advice of photographic and artistic experts, but you don't want all of it hanging around 24/7. Except for the choice moral items.

The gist of all this is that we all have a lot of people, some we know others that we never met, telling us which way is the right path to follow. It may be good advice but sometimes we do need to break free.

I don't have a perfect map for my life and there's no way I would know where you should go. I do believe though that if you do what feels right for you and let your own voice guide, you great improvements will happen.

Below are some photographs that for some reason have compelled me to look longer. They might break some composition rules but we all have our own tastes.

While you're supposed to watch out for things at the edges, for me here this adds some intrigue to a well textured wall and canal edge in Paris.

You may ask 'What is the next photo' and I don't have an answer.  It came about because I was playing around with Helicon focus and the photo with a black background didn't stand out well enough.

 11 images in stack with Tamron 90mm in macro mode at F/8 @ 1/5sec

With some judicious use of Photoshop layers, various blend modes and even a little LAB mode, I found one version that intrigued me. It's still a bit crude but I see how I could take this further.

Original version with black background below

Therefore, silence some of these voices. Use them only when needed in order to make time for things that you enjoy and this includes doing photos that only interest you.  After all it your creativity.

Niels Henriksen

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: Black and White Digital Photography

Color is wonderful and is a joy to behold but for me there is always something special about a Black and White photograph. I'm not sure if this is because for the most of my life when great photos were presented these tended to be B&W images or the mystique that goes around their genre. But I still find them special.

The world is in color so we don't have a natural tendency to see in B&W but with practice, some inner vision, we can all create good black and white photos.
Black and White Digital Photography (photo workshop) book wants people to be better at this genre of photography.

Black and White Digital Photography (the book)
Author Chris Bucher
ISBN 978-0-470-42193-2
Publisher Wiley Publishing Inc.

The book has 10 chapters and I will explain what is basically covered in each and at the end of the article I will give the overall summary for this book.
This is a workbook of sorts and each chapter has an assignment to help you explore some of the material covered in the chapter.

Chapter 1 – Black and White Vision
This chapter is more of a compendium of general information on importance of Black and White photography, why it is a different art from color. It covers how in the color world seeing in B&W involves more of the creative process. The importance of being able to previsualize, understand the timing in 'the moment' and knowing how to wait.  Where to find photographic material and subjects.

Chapter 2 – Photography Fundamentals
A good general introduction to camera setting such as exposure, aperture, shutter speed, iso, white balance and how these each affect the photographic image. Under composition the rule of thirds, balance, symmetry, shape, simplicity, having a point of view and being able to link compositional elements.

Chapter 3 – Getting the Most out of your Camera
This chapter covers handling the buttons and menu settings on your camera. How white balance affects B&W. Glass filters and suggested settings and lens for portraits, landscape, still life and street photography.

Chapter 4 – Working with Light 
This is what I believe where photography really starts.
This chapter covers metering and exposure, basic zone system, the metering modes of your camera. Light quality and direction as well as reflectors and balancing and mixing sources. Light at dusk and after dark.

Chapter 5 – Tools and Toys
This chapter covers add-ons and supporting equipment for your camera that will allow to take more creative images and includes; Infrared photography, lens baby, smaller point and shoot and speciality DSLR camera, strobes, tripods

Chapter 6 – Tonal Quality in Black and White
This chapter covers converting color to B&W, discussing tones and contrast in B&W images, working with shadows and contrast. Also covers understanding how light quality affects tones and looking for highlights and building depth in the shadows.

Chapter 7 – The Black and White Digital file

The process of converting image to B&W, the use of film filters and the debate on raw or jepg file formats

Chapter 8 – Working in the Digital Darkroom
The chapter discusses the process of enhancing your image to bring out more by use of local and global contrast, multiple raw processing, adjustment layers, masks, shadows and highlight tools, additional filters, selective effects, film situations, workflow. The major emphasis is about using photoshop and digital editing tools.

Chapter 9-  Toning, Coloring and Special Effects
The chapter explains the old film processing techniques and how they can be achieved in digital editing such as; old process effects, split toning, coloring to monochrome, infrared effects, high dynamic range, compositing

10 Output Printing and Presentation
Film was about chemical processes, paper, developing and in this chapter the new equivalents of inject printers and paper, calibrating, creating B&W prints, output options

Conclusion and  Recommended Audience

This is a How To book about creating B&W images digitally. It broadly covers all aspects from start to finish about creating this genre of photography as evidenced by the material cover under the chapters. I don't think little was missed except some freeware program.  The author used higher end equipment,  and computer components and information is geared towards this end.

The book contains a lot of photos and all taken by the author. I like the fact that these are ordinary but good images that we would all take as opposed to those over the top studio shots.

The book does contain assignments at the end and these are general in approach. I am a firm believer that assignments should  be precise and more definitive to help focus people clearly in the direction of guidance. Too much ambiguity for beginners causes confusion in their approach.

There is a web site to post your assignment but at this time (new book) there was nothing posted under the B&W book. This site contains the other workbooks from Wiley press about photography.  Some useful information but a little hard to find since its a Bulletin Board system.
See  under forum. (the books says but routes to address above.)

This is, in my opinion, a beginners book for someone who mainly uses Point&Shoot camera or mid level SLR type only in auto mode and needs to understand photography, equipment and tools from beginning to end. Each item is well explained but only at a level to get you started and with photography, lots of practice is the key to really getting better.

From my own perspective there are so many books about using cameras I think it's better to leave some of the basic materiel out and focus more on taking B&W and then digital editing.

Niels Henriksen

A bike has so much detail at times its best to focus on particular elements only. In this image you get the feeling of power form the large exhaust pipes.
f.4.4 @ 72mm on 18-70 Nikon lens, 1/15sec, IS0 200

Disclaimer: Other than receiving a book to review, which will be given away, I did not or will not receive any remunerations, gifts or any considerations for this review from the publisher, author or anyone affiliated with this book.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why YOUR Photography Matters

I was using Google Street View to find an intersecting street name for a photo I had taken.
The sign in the image told me one street name and since it was only 4 blocks long I figured it should be easy to determine which one of the 5 intersections was the corner for my image.

I tried 3 times to find the corner but with no luck. I just didn’t see my image. It wasn’t until I tried to remember where the streets were steep and placed the google 'bonhomme' on that intersection and looked really hard to find the same buildings, it finally become apparent. It was always there but I didn't see it because of the compression in distance in my image.

F9.0 iso 200 s 1/200 @135mm (202mm at 25mm equ)

The next 2 'Google Maps images' show first at the intersection and the second image taken further up 'Solano y Davalos' where approximately I was standing when I took my photo above.

from Google Street View

These google images don’t show the true steepness of the streets that surround the central square 'el Jardin' as many call it. Only the image in the bottom right, when zoomed in, begins to show similarities.
from Google Street View

Using a zoom lens could bring the steepness of the street towards the end closer and into view. When standing where the street starts to become steeper, the same perception was harder to capture since at that point there were no references to show level as in the zoomed image.

This is why we each need to take our own photographs because only the photographer can tell the story that they see. Mechanical taken images just don't quite cut it.

Niels Henriksen

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Using Guidelines to Increase Focus on Subject

There are several lines that help guide the viewer to the main subject, which is the man & child on the bridge.
Some are natural and some enhanced with photo-editing.

These are:
  • Bridge railings
  • Top of roof (top right)
  • Rippling water starting bottom right. The water just to the left was darkened a little to make contrast greater.
  • The darker 'V' portion of the tree that splits above girls head. This was also darkened slightly to increase effect.
  • There is a dark patch just to the left of man's head that forms a 'C'.  This was also slightly darkened.

I thought I'd show my own B&W photo, as I'm doing a book review in the next article about Digital B&W editing.

Niels Henriksen

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are You Being Creative outside of Photography

In most arts lots of practice and if varied does improve your skills and as in photography you need to take many and I do mean many photographs. I do believe you need to be able to see differently.

Being creative, seeing new possibilities in your mind, imagining, also requires lots of practice. There is no formula, like camera settings, that allows you to press and get the perfect picture. This is something that you need to visualize. By not only being creative with your camera, but in post-processing, painting or drawing, gardens or even creating paths in the woods, you will be able to see more with your camera. This playing around gives more space for your imagination to grow.

My stay in San Miguel de Allende did influence my painting style as I decided to try a series of 6 painting about cacti. I wanted each to be slightly different but about the same subject. 

This was more about playing with colors

This is really a succulent but close enough for me.

Each painting  is a 16” x 20” oil on canvas.

Cacti have a lot of greens and this series was about using different greens with complimentary colors.

Photographs were all used as reference material as there are no cacti here in Ottawa. At least non outdoors that I can paint from.

 This image above still needs some minor changes.

Each are different as I hoped and some seem to work better than others. That's the joy of experimenting. You're not quite sure how it will turn out.

The one thing that became very apparent is that oil colours, at least the saturated mixed, could not be captured with a 12 bit sensor. Non of these photos show the true vibrancy of the real paintings.

This is now something to strive for when printing photos. To somehow still have a bright luminance reflect off the photo. This is mostly about contrast and an easy method to create the allusion is to darken and mute color in surrounding areas. There may also need to be some softening to add a bit of glow effect.

Niels Henriksen


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