photoshop

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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Photographing a Gun Defense and Knife Fighting Seminar – Part 1

On Sunday July , Sifu Cory Walken with the Seattle Close Range Tactics martial arts studio invited me to document a few of the seminars.

One was “Gun Defense” with Arjhan David Brown from Houston, Texas. The other, a knife fighting seminar also with Arjhan David and Kru Yai Katherine Holmes.

Arjhan David Brown

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Arjhan David Brown, center, helps students learn the fine points of gun defense at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash.

As I have shot many seminars and classes with Total Confidence Martial Arts here in Bellingham, Wash., I was quite familiar with Master David and his teaching techniques. But I wanted to try something a little different.

Sifu Cory Walken

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Sifu Cory Walken instructs students during gun defense class at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash.

Rather than stay back a little and shoot with medium and telephoto lenses, I wanted to add some intimacy so I used my 17-35. I wrote in an earlier blog  the “3 I’s of Good Photojournalism: Intimacy”  how a wide-angle forces you to get close to your subject and adds depth to the image.

Layers

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Sifu Cory Walken demonstrates gun defense during class at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash.

Also, using this lens gave me a little range in focal length. If I needed to get a touch closer, then I could zoom in. I did use my 80-200 for a few shots,  but those were more for close-ups of some of the participants. I used it outside at Gasworks Park to get some sense of place with the Space Needle in the background.

Layers 2

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Arjhan David Brown, left, teaches weapon removal at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash. I liked how the one student was holding the gun so I focused on it and used Arjhan David and the student on the left to add depth.

Using a wide-angle lens properly can give you a dominant subject in the foreground with a contributing background. This can also be called “layering ” or “adding depth.” Photojournalist Stanley Leary writes about this in his blog Visual Storytelling called “Depth of Field is More Than Aperture.”

 Mirror Mirror

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Rather than view the mirrors as a distraction, I worked them to find an angle to add depth to a few images. I waited for a moment when all the views had a bit of action.

The key is to use a large aperture of f/4 or f/5.6 so you leave the background a little out of focus which allows the viewer to discern what the image is about. Give hints and clues, but don’t tell the complete story. Let the viewer find out for themselves.

As the participants formed teams of two with Masters David and Sifu Cory observing each, I also looked for patterns to use these in the layering. In a close space such as the studio where the gun defense seminar was taught, it wasn’t too difficult. In the open space of Gasworks Park, it was more challenging.

There was a mirror in the room that at first I thought would be a distraction. But while shooting one set of participants, I noticed I could use it to add depth by getting in more participants. For the result, see above.

Mixed Lighting Sources 1:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Sifu Cory Walken demonstrates gun removal techniques to a student at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash. The left side of the frame is lit by a large, south-facing open window, and the right is lit by various other sources. As the faces on the left are most important, I color corrected for them and let the other elements shift to warmer tones.

But the biggest challenge was getting correct white balance. The mixed light on the students was mind-boggling. There was indirect sun coming into the studio from a big picture window, the lights were a mix of CFLs, tungsten, flourescent, and LEDs.

As I shoot in raw, I opted for auto so I can get close and then fine tune it in Lightroom. Plus shooting at ISO 800, I wanted the raw because if sway from “correct” exposure just a little, the image can look quite ugly.

As I imported the image into Lightroom, I set the white balance to get the best skin tones. This made some of the picture have a touch of funky color. Some had blue caused by daylight entering the room, or some had yellow caused by the mixed artificial light.

Mixed Lighting Sources 2 (A Better Photo):

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Sifu Cory Walken demonstrates a technique during a gun defense seminar at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash. This doesn’t show the mixed lighting as well as the above photo, but I cropped in a little and it’s a better moment.

But the skin tones are the most important part of the photo, so I adjusted for the main subject and the dominant light hitting their face. Challenging, but worth it.

Tomorrow for Part 2, we head to Gasworks Park in Seattle.

Do you or someone you know someone in the Seattle/Bellingham area who needs teaching seminars photographed for their business website? Feel free to contact me or pass on my information onto them. My email is paulconradphotography@gmail.com

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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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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Calendar Photography: Illuminating Goddesses

***Updated***

For the past week or so I’ve shot portraits of Goddesses for my local client Ashley Benem of Benem’s Body Works.

Ashley contacted me through a friend of a friend. Upon first discussion, her ideas intrigued me and wanted to work with Ashley on her project. She needed various models dressed as certain goddesses for her calendar.

These consisted mostly of studio sessions with a few outdoor shoots. For the studio, I used Einstein monolights made by Paul C. Buff.  These lights are phenomenal.

I borrowed them from my good friend Earnie Glazener of Seattle, Wash. I’ve used studio lights multiple times before, but these were fantastic. With a quick tutoring session, I realized I need to get me a set of them.

For the main light, I used one with the parabolic light umbrella (The PLM system), which is basically a huge beauty dish and gives off some wonderful light. My fill was a basic soft box by Paul C. Buff. On some shots for more dramatic light, I used a Photflex reflector to fill in the shadows for more dramatic light.

For the outside shots, I just used the reflector to fill in the shadow areas.

After setting up the lights, I took a few test shots each day using my Color Checker Passport by X-Rite Photo. Just a few shots at the metered exposure and then a few more bracketed. The good thing with the Einstein lights is that they are extremely consistent with their color temperature.

These are some of my favorites and how I lit them:

Artemis the Hunter:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Ashley Benem of Benem's Body Works portrays the Greek goddess Artemis the Archer, Goddess of the Hunt, Forests, the Hill, and the Moon, during a photoshoot for her upcoming calendar.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Ashley Benem of Benem’s Body Works portrays the Greek goddess Artemis the Archer, Goddess of the Hunt, Forests, the Hill, and the Moon, during a photoshoot for her upcoming calendar.

Lighting: What was important in this photo was the angle of her drawing the bow (it is a real bow and arrow) and the ability to see her eyes. Yes, the inspiration for the angle was the movie poster for The Hunger Games.

A basic lighting set-up was used for this image. Ashley was simply lit with the large PLM umbrella on the left and a powered down soft box (2 stops under) on the right. Exposure was 1/250th at f/11 using my D300s with 80-200 zoomed halfway for a slightly compressed feel.

Post Processing:  Simply brought into Adobe Camera Raw to get correct color balance and add a little fill light. Brought into Photoshop and used separate layers for curves (slight increase in mid-tones) and Black & White layer for the sepia.

Persephone Daughter of Zeus:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Greek goddess Persephone daughter of Zeus being tempted by Hades. Queen of the Underworld and vegetation goddess.

Lighting:  What was important in the photo was all the white with emphasis on the reds of the pomegranate and her lipstick, yet, still maintain some color for her skintones.

The model was simply lit with the large PLM umbrella on the right and the soft box on the left as fill. I wanted less depth of field so I powered down all the strobes to their minimum. Exposure was 1/250th at f/4 using my D300s with 50mm f/1.4  focused on the pomegranate.

Post Processing:  I brought the image into Adobe Camera Raw twice: once for correct exposure and color balance, the second time to get the overall overexposed look. Those were then layered in Photoshop with the bright layer converted as a smart object and placed on top of the “correct” layer. I then used the eraser tool with the opacity and flow settings set to the mid-range on that layer to bring out the red in the lips and pomegranate of the underlying layer. I then added a curves adjustment layer to flatten the highlights and add just a touch of contrast.

Athena Goddess of War:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Athena the daughter of Zeus, Greek Goddess of wisdom, warfare, architecture, divine intelligence, and crafts.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Athena the daughter of Zeus, Greek Goddess of wisdom, warfare, architecture, divine intelligence, and crafts.

Lighting: What was important in this photo is to make her look the part. Ashley did a great job coaching her to bring out the character as she did with all the models.

While shooting, I had to pay attention to the sword because when it was turned the “correct” way, the glare was overwhelming. The model was simply lit with the large PLM umbrella on the right and using a Photoflex MulitDisc 5-in-1 reflector on the right using the gold fabric surface. I wanted less depth of field so I used my 80-200 to compress it a touch. Exposure was 1/250th at f/11 using my D300s with 80-200 f/ 2.8 focused on her eyes.

Post Processing: I brought the image into Adobe Camera Raw for correct exposure and color balance. Then using Photoshop, I layered a curves layer to bring in the mid-tones and add some contrast by anchoring the upper shadow area. Then I added a Black & White layer to add the sepia toning.

Brighid- Celtic Goddess of Childbirth & Poetry:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Brighid the Celtic Goddess of Childbirth and Poetry.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Brighid the Celtic Goddess of Childbirth and Poetry.

Lighting: What was important in this photo is to ensure the herbs on her left were properly lit as well as lighting the globe with a spot light so it has a glowing feel to it.

While shooting, I had to pay attention to the globe to make sure the model held it in the spot where my snooted SB-800 strobe was firing. The rest of the model was simply lit with the large PLM umbrella on the left as the main light to keep the herbs well-lit.  The right side was lit using a soft box set about 2 stops under the main. Exposure was 1/250th at f/11 using my D300s with 17-35 f/ 2.8 at about 20mm focal length.

Post Processing: I brought the image into Adobe Camera Raw for correct exposure and color balance. I also made the shadows a little deeper to drop out the black background. Then after importing it into Photoshop, I layered a curves layer to bring in the mid-tones and add some contrast by anchoring the upper shadow area. Then I added a Black & White layer to add the sepia toning. With the B&W layer, I added a mask and using the eraser tool, deleted that part over the herbs to bring out the green. The opacity and flow settings on the eraser tool were set to the mid-ranges to keep the edges from being to stark.

There are a total of 13 models for this shoot. Each one has their own special characteristics. Each one with their own special circumstances. These are just my 4 favorites.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.
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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Fixing a Photo to Make it Better

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali.

Even though perfection is not attainable, by attempting to reach it, you become a better person and a better photographer.

It’s one of my favorite shots so far this year. Definitely in the top 12. But to me, it had an annoying flaw.

On Monday I chased the rising full Moon. The race started in Whatcom County north of Bellingham, Wash., and ended in downtown. Here’s the earlier post showing Mount Baker in alpenglow and the Moon rising over a ridge: A Quick Update, and a Few Photos

Supermoon over Whatcom Museum and Art Gallery- Final Image

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The full super perigee Moon rises over the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash., on Monday evening July 22, 2012.

Earlier in the day I used The Photographer’s Ephemeris to plan my shoot for evening rising of the full Moon. I wanted a nice shot of the Moon as it rose over Mt. Baker, but to get a clear shot I’d have to drive into Canada. That was clearly out of the question. Not that there’s anything wrong with Canadians, I just didn’t want to drive that far.

So I set my sights on local landmarks. With the TPE on my phone, I drove to a spot to see where I could get a clear shot of the Moon over the courthouse, the tallest steeple in Whatcom County, and a few other places.

Although the TPE is a valuable tool, it only shows where on the HORIZON the Sun or Moon will rise. It does not give the approximate trajectory as the object arcs its way across the sky.With that I use the Sun Surveyor app on my phone. I just point it in the direction I want to shoot and it shows the trajectory of the Sun or Moon across the sky. It’s pretty cool. And fairly accurate. However, you MUST calibrate your phone each time you turn on the app. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow my advice and calibrate the app. The trajectory was way off and I cancelled shooting the Whatcom County Courthouse and Museum.

So instead I headed north and shot the alpenglow on Mount Baker and the Moon rising over a ridgeline. After that, I decided to take a chance and drive to the Courthouse and try to get it. I really love the old building. It’s classic late 1800s architecture and well maintained.

The Moon wasn’t high enough to be visible yet. As the Courthouse become visible, you could see the glow of the Moon to the LEFT of it and not the RIGHT which the uncalibrated app showed. So I had time to find a spot.

I stopped about 1/4 mile from it and within minutes found a clean unobstructed shot. The courthouse is surrounded by power lines and poles for some strange. But I got lucky and walked down an alley and found a spot with a clear view of the courthouse.

First “completed image:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - You can notice the cyan haze around the Moon in the original version. After getting rid of the black ring, I worked on reducing the cyan glow. The end result is a much better looking photograph. The full Moon rises over the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash., on Monday evening July 22, 2012.

Now using the Surveyor and properly calibrating it, I could tell if I moved about 10 yards to the left, I’ll get the Moon between two spires. When I did, and the Moon finally came out from behind the courthouse and it was a beautiful sight. The yellowish Moon between a perfectly lit red brick with white trim Victorian era building.

But UGH!!! Can’t get the exposure to work for me. Either the moon is perfectly exposed and the building underexposed, or the moon’s blown out and the building perfect. And I’m a “Get it in Camera” kinda guy.

The Black Ring:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - I could not see the dark ring around the edge of moon unless the image was blown up to 100% or more. But knowing it was there, I needed to fix it.

When I got home, I actually chose a frame with the moon slightly overexposed and plenty of detail in the building but it was dark. Importing the NEF file into Adobe Camera Raw, I adjusted it for color balance favoring the tungsten lights on the building over the sunlit moon, added 100% to the “highlight recovery,” 100% to the “fill light,” and left the rest alone.

When it imported to Photoshop, I did some pre-burning of the moon to add a little contrast. With relatively simple curve adjustment brought out the color and texture of the courthouse without overexposing the moon. Then I added a warming layer at 25% to add just a touch of warmth to the photo and knock out some of the blue in the sky as I thought it looked fake.

It looked super nice. However, upon closer inspection of the moon, I noticed a black ring just inside the edge and a cyan halo around it. Ugh. What would cause it? Investigating the cause led nowhere. Until I took the NEF back into ACR and played with the adjustments.

The “fill light” setting was a touch too high. So I dropped it a bit, but it was still there, barely. Then using clone and heal, removed it as best I could. The used the “Replace Color” tool found under “Image > Adjustments,” I selected only the cyan channel and a very narrow band, and changed the color slightly (by a +5 or so) and dropped the saturation to a -5. This fixed it for me.

Before / After:

Minor adjustments was all it was. Just a simple matter of paying attention to your settings both in camera and while you’re post-processing.

Have you ever had an image you weren’t happy with? What did you do to correct it?

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

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Follow me on various Social Networks:
Pablo Conrad Photography

“Like” my Page on Facebook

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