Photoshop Tips & Tricks

A Night Under The Stars: Tips to Improve Your Night Photography

On Friday, my friend Earnie and I headed to Artist Point near the Mt. Baker Ski area east of Bellingham, Wash. We started late as I had to complete a football assignment for the Bellingham Herald. We did not leave Bellingham until about 11.

Our original plan was to shoot an expected display of the Aurora Borealis. However, Mother Nature decided to change its mind and send clouds to the north of us.

Scratch one night of shooting the aurora.

Hikers Descend from Tabletop Mountain:

Lighting the Trail - Hikers light the traila with their headlamps as they walk down Table Mountain at Artist Point in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualime National Forest in western Whatcom County. east of Bellingham, Wash. Bellingham wedding photographer, bellingham portrait photographer

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Hikers light the trail with their headlamps as they walk down Table Mountain at Artist Point in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualime National Forest in western Whatcom County. east of Bellingham, Wash. This was a 30 second exposure at f/2.8, ISO 200. This reminded me of one of Galen Rowell’s photographs.

More Tips to Improve Your Night Photography

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Long Exposures at Locust Beach in Bellingham, Wash.

Just a few photos from Locust Beach while playing with my neutral density filters. I stacked two ND filters: one B+W  3.0 (10 stops) and the other my B+W 1.8 (6 stops) to get shutter speeds of up to 4 minutes. Yes, 4 minutes.

I tend to buy high quality filters because if you’re going to interrupt the flow of light, make sure the glass is superior quality. I use B+W Filters by Schneider Optics.

 Rocky Shore – 105 Second Exposure:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Sunset from Locust Beach in Bellingham, Wash., along the shore of Bellingham Bay on Wednesday August 6, 2014.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – This is a 105 second exposure. I liked how the rocks lined this section of the shore and the way the fading sunlight fell on them. Sunset from Locust Beach in Bellingham, Wash., along the shore of Bellingham Bay on Wednesday August 6, 2014.

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#Supermoon over #Bellingham

It was the Supermoon on the horizon that had me rushing all over. This year’s “Supermoon” was actually one of the largest. 14% larger than the Moon when full at apogee.

The so-called Supermoon is technically a full moon when it is at perigee. Or the point closest to Earth in its orbit. On top of that, the Moon was full less than 30 minutes before it reached perigee.

First Shot – Moon Over Museum:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The super perigee Moon rises over the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday evening August 10, 2014.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – The super perigee Moon rises over the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday evening August 10, 2014. If it weren’t for the power lines, this would’ve been the shot. I think they’re incredibly distracting.

Using both The Photographer’s ephemeris and Sun Surveyor by Adam Ratana. I use both apps on my smart phone. The ephemeris is used to help me find a spot during the day time to line up a foreground subject. Then I use Sun Surveyor to find the near exact spot I should be. The big advantage SS has over TPE is that it shows the real path of the Sun or Moon as it transits the sky. TPE is a good general tool and not much else.

Second Shot – Moon Over Museum:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The super perigee Moon rising over Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday evening August 10, 2014.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Although very similar to a photo I shot last year of a supermoon, I like this better because there are no distracting power lines.

My subject was the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash. It was built-in 1892 and is a beautiful red brick building with white trim. It was formerly the Whatcom County Courthouse, but a new courthouse was built and so the old one became a museum and local landmark.

One problem: getting a clear view of the museum and moon. Because of all the power lines, it’s difficult to get a good shot of the museum and moon in a line-free photo.

So as I set out looking, I came across a great view of the courthouse and I could see a touch of the moon. ONLY problem was all the power lines in the way. I was on a hill just east of Squalicum Harbor watching the Moon rise over the distant ridge line just behind the museum. I stay and shot some frames anyway for posterity. I like it at it shows the size of the moon, but the power lines are annoying.

Just One More:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The super perigee Moon rising over Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday evening August 10, 2014.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – I like the glow from the Moon on the haze behind the museum. Adds a sense of mystery.

I then drove to the one spot I planned to shoot from. Clear shot of the museum and the moon. But it’s also very similar to another Supermoon shot from last year. But the big difference in this is that the moon rise was just before sunset. So the exposure was more workable. Plus, I imported into Lightroom which made the post-processing of the image even easier. I was able to get the Moon to look more natural against the tower of the museum.

Not like they’re actually rare events, I’m hoping on the next one to find a better spot. Perhaps the Twin Sisters would be a great shot with the Moon rising over them?

Prints of this image and many others available for purchase on my website Supermoon Over Museum.

View more of my images from the Bellingham area at Urban Scenes: Bellingham, Wash.

Which photo is your favorite? And why? Let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

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Using simple #Lighting for a #Baseball #Portrait

On Sunday I had an assignment to shoot 3 team members of the Ferndale U11 Cal Ripkin All-Stars.

As part of the assignment for The Bellingham Herald, I was to meet three standouts and photograph them at practice. To be safe, I met the three early for a quick portrait session.

Always thinking on a larger scale, I kept picturing 3 major leaguers and wanted to light them as if I was working at Sports Illustrated. Hey why not think big. They may be 11, but why let that limit how you shoot it.

Using my set Nikon SB-910 speedlights and Phottix Odin TTL flash trigger and remotes, I set up a simple “studio” at home plate.

Three All-Stars:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Evan Rehrberger, Ethan Brooks, and Greg Roberts of the Ferndale 11-U Cal Ripkin All-Star team.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Evan Rehrberger, Ethan Brooks, and Greg Roberts of the Ferndale 11-U Cal Ripkin All-Star team.

As a safety, I asked one of the dads to be a test subject so I can get the light placed correctly and power output set properly. I like my strobes at a 1:2 ratio.

The main light I place on the right at about 90 degrees from the camera-subject line. The secondary fill light, at a 45 degree angle on the left. I switched the main from left to right while keeping the 1:2 ratio. This gave me lighting choices to keep me from second guessing myself during the editing process.

With the sky dark from clouds, I tried to set my exposure to underexpose the ambient light by one stop.  But in retrospect, I should have underexposed the ambient by 2 stops. Live and learn I guess.

For the three youths in one shot, I kept the lights simple: placed each strobe at a 45° angle and evenly lit.

One Shot:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -(l to r) Evan Rehrberger, Greg Roberts, and Ethan Brooks,  of the Ferndale 11U All-Star baseball team during practice at Pioneer Park on Sunday afternoon July 6, 2014,  in Ferndale, Wash.. Catcher Greg Roberts, first baseman Ethan Brooks, and second baseman Evan Rehberger featured.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -(l to r) Second baseman Evan Rehrberger, catcher Greg Roberts, and first baseman Ethan Brooks, of the Ferndale 11U All-Star baseball team during practice at Pioneer Park on Sunday afternoon July 6, 2014, in Ferndale, Wash.

  • 2 SB-910 Speedlights placed about 5 feet from subject(s). IMPORTANT!!! Set the mode for the strobes to manual.
  • Phottix Odin TTL triggers used to control light output. They give you the ability to control the light output from the camera.
  • Have subject turn to their left towards the main light to give dimension to the face.
  • Adjust lighting as needed using transmitter.
  • Swap the lights between subjects for variety. Place the left at 90° and the right at 45° for variety.
  • I did not use a tripod to be more fluidlic. But my camera position was in a general area about 5 to 7 feet from the subject.
  • For the 3 Subject photo, I placed each light at 45 degrees and set to full.

Here’s a couple of tips, which I went over in a previous blog Intro To Creative Flash: Balancing Your Flash with Ambient Light

  • Because the flash duration is so short (1/100th of a second or shorter), the aperture controls the amount of light when your flash is set on manual. Keep in mind this only works on manual. If you have your flash on auto , TTL, program, or whatever, this won’t work and you’ll get more confused. It must be on manual mode.
  • The shutter control the ambient light for the most part. Use the FP mode on your strobe if you need to go higher than the camera’s highest flash synch speed.

Simply: aperture for your flash, shutter speed for the ambient. It takes some practice, but it’s well worth it and gives you more tools for your photographic toolbox.

Simple lighting Set-up:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Using just two strobes with diffusers place about 5 feet from subjects. Radio remotes to trigger. Simple and easy.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Using just two strobes with diffusers place about 5 feet from subjects. Radio remotes to trigger. Simple and easy.

Practice! Practice! Practice!!!

Photography is NOT a Spectator Sport!!

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Follow me on these various Social Networks:

  1. Follow Me on Google+
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Taking the High Pass: Sharpen Your Photos Using This Filter

Using this filter in Photoshop to sharpen your images without increasing noise. Lightroom’s sharpening  panel does act somewhat like the High Pass Filter as you can set the strength of the sharpening by using the Masking slider. You can see the effect if you old the “opt/Alt” key while adjusting the slider. More on this later.

My friend Anna as she prepares for a recent bout:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Anna Haskin at Total Confidence Martial Arts in Bellingham, Wash. First, I wish to thank Photoshop Essentials with this tutorial which got me started using this tactic, and   of Vibrant Shot which has a slightly better way titled “Intelligent High Pass Sharpening.” The following tutorial is based on the Intelligent High Pass method.

It seems to work the best for me and does not leave a halo on high contrast edges. I chose a photo of my friend Anna as she prepared for a kickboxing bout a few months ago. This method is old news to some people, but I discovered that using this filter sharpens better than Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen. It just takes a little getting used to. It’s an added couple of steps to your workflow, but that not a big deal if you use multiple layers in each image.

It’s called the “High Pass Filter” and it works great and is even better if you want to keep high ISO noise to a minimum. There are as many workflows as there are photographers, so choosing when you do this is up to you. I prefer to do it as my last step as it requires copying your background layer multiple times.

That sounds scary, but it really isn’t . It’s a simple & easy process which gives you more control over your sharpening. I discovered it by simply needing a way to sharpen a photo of my father-in-law in the Pacific Science Center during the King Tut Exhibit. Because it was so dark, I was at ISO 3200 and the noise was more than I wanted. Sharpening the image via Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen just increases the noise. So I Googled how I can sharpen and this technique popped up. I can say I’ve used this procedure for at least 2 months so I feel confident it works.

Here are the Steps:

1. Copy the Background Layer – First, make sure the image is toned the way you want it. Save the image. Always save before going into a new step. Sharpening your image should always be the last step.

The First Step is to tone it the way you want it. Sharpening should be the last step.

The First Step is to tone it the way you want it. Sharpening should be the last step.

Click on the background layer and make two copies by dragging it to the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Make sure these two layers are just above the Background layer. Title first “Low,” and the second “High.” This will help you keep your layers organized. You should have three (3) identical layers in this order:

  1. High
  2. Low
  3. Background
Copy the background layer twice. Rename the new layers "High-High Pass Filter" and "Low-Surface Blur." Make sure High is above Low which is above Background

2. Implement the Surface Blur –

Click the “eye” on the High layer to make it invisible. Highlight the “Low” layer. Now start the “Surface Blur” tool by going to Filter > Blur > Surface Blur. You have to think a little different with the Surface Blur filter because when you apply the High Pass Filter to this layer, it takes the INVERSE of the settings. With the radius, the higher the radius, the more sharpening even though the image becomes increasingly blurry. Zoom into an area with a sharp edge. Adjust the Threshold setting to about 30 or so. This sharpens the edge in the last step, yet does not give the halo look which is prevalent in using the HP filter on its own. Click the "eye" icon of the High layer to make it invisible. Choose the Low layer then go to Filter > Blur > Surface Blur to initiate this filter Now apply. This filter is a memory hog and can take a little time. So if you have a rather large (150 MB or more), grab a cup of coffee, go for a walk, or just kick back to watch the progress bar march ever so slowly across the screen.

3. Implement the High Pass Filter –

Click on the eye icon of the High layer and make it visible. Initiate the High Pass filter by going to Filter > Other > High Pass. Adjust the radius by zooming into an area with a sharp edge . In portraits, use the eye. Because “eyes are the windows to the soul,” having sharp eyes in portraiture is very important. When adjusting the High Pass filter, make sure you are paying attention to sharp edges so you don't get the Halo effect. Adjust until you start seeing a halo effect in the sharp edge. Usually you only need to go to a 4 or 5 radius to get significant sharpening. Click OK. Now the layer will be gray with some sharp details that will look like a relief map of your photo. Go to the Blending Mode drop down menu in the Layers Panel and choose Linear Light. WOW!! Super Sharp! Delete the Low – Surface Blur layer. You no longer need this. It is just eating up digital space. change the Blending Mode by using the drop down menu.

4. Choose the Blending Mode –

There are two ways to adjust the amount of sharpening:

  1. Change the Blending Mode
  2. Change the Layer Opacity

***The Blending Move changes the overall sharpness of the image, where the Opacity changes the sharpening effect of the layer. The strength of the sharpness in Blending Mode varies from with each photo, so the best way to set the mode is to zoom into 50% or tighter and change the mode to choose the effect you want.

The Opacity affects how strong  the filter is applied. Again, playing with the slider to see the effect is the best way to figure out what is best for you.

*** The great thing about this technique is you can change the sharpness to the layer without destroying the image or having to delete a layer and start again. It is non-destructive. Now depending on your workflow, you can either save as a new file or save over the original PSD/Tiff. I prefer to save over to keep from eating up too much hard drive space. Flatten your image if you need jpegs for the web.

That’s it. Depending on how large your image is, it only takes an extra 2 or 3 minutes to implement this.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work.

Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions. Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

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