Month: March 2014

Spring Reflection

Spring Reflection

This photo was taken along Baldwin Creek near Baldwin Lake in the Collegiate Peaks area below Mount Antero in early June of 2009. The road to the lake was partially blocked because of a fallen tree, and I had to stop my truck there because I definitely would have damaged it or gotten stuck had I tried to drive further. But I still managed to smash one of the backup lights on my bumper when I hit a big rock while trying to park off the road. I have pictures of that, too.

I hiked up the road a bit and spent some time at the lake, where I got hit by a spring snow storm. As I was driving out, I noticed this area of the creek with lots of curves and reflections in it. Not all of the grass was green yet, but enough of it was to make for some nice shots.

I processed this image only in Adobe Camera Raw. The basic adjustments were enough to bring out most of the colors. I did pump up the orange in the HSL tab to add a nice tone to the mountain.

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The Purple Bicycle

The Purple Bicycle

The folder in my archives that this photo comes from contains shots I took while wandering around Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs, looking for interesting places to use as backdrops for portraits. This is a bicycle sculpture in Manitou Springs.

I first opened this photo in Adobe Camera Raw where I lightened the shadows to help separate the bike from the background, and I used the HSL tab to desaturate all of the colors except purple and magenta. I used the the Color Range tool and Quick Mask Mode in Photoshop to select the bicycle on one layer. I used the Quick Selection tool and Quick Mask Mode to select the shadow on another layer. I made both selections into masks and refined their edges. I cut out everything from the layers except for the bicycle and shadow. I then added a new layer and gradient behind the bike and the shadow.

Do You Remember When That Girl Was Prom Queen?

Do You Remember When That Girl Was Prom Queen?

This photo is of a group of high school students before their combined junior/senior prom. My friend, Joel, wanted some pictures because both of his sons, one a junior and one a senior, were going to the prom.

The juniors met at one house, and the seniors met at another. Joel’s sons were supposed to tell the parents that we were coming with my studio lights to get some shots. They did not, so when we showed up at both houses, the general reaction was, “Who the hell are you guys, and what are you doing here?” Fortunately, no one kicked us out, even though we did completely rearrange the furniture in one living room. We had to rush from one house to the other, so we didn’t have time to put it all back.

This was one of the test shots I took while setting up my lights, so it’s an example of what not do publish to parents who are prospective customers. I love the expressions on their faces, and Joel’s son is the one with the back of his head facing the camera.

I did a very quick, basic edit in Adobe Camera Raw.

Merciful Fate

Merciful Fate

This photo was taken during a paranormal investigation at the Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum in Cripple Creek, CO. There has been a lot of evidence of the paranormal collected at this location.

On this particular investigation I spent a lot of time photographing the interesting artwork that the inmates had created in the cells. This scribbling is on the inside of a cell door on the upper level near the solitary confinement cell. The orange glow in the background is caused by the sun hitting a display poster on the outside wall. I thought it added an element of hellfire and brimstone to the overall mood of the image.

I edited this image mostly in Adobe Camera Raw, making basic adjustments, using the straightening tool and increasing the saturation of the reds, oranges and yellow in HSL. I used the adjustment brush to desaturate the color from the metal to remove the warm color cast on it.

Hidden Treasure

Hidden Treasure

This shot was taken on my very first trip to the Paint Mines in Calhan, CO. The title reflects the fact that this area is one of Colorado’s hidden gems. You could very easily drive right past it and never know it was there. I did just that on this trip because I was expecting the park to be visible from Highway 24, and it is not. As a result, I drove about 20 minutes too far east before I started to get the feeling I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I stopped in a really cool antique store in a barn to ask for directions from the friendly owner.

The moral of the story is to carefully watch for the small sign for the Paint Mines at the eastern edge of Calhan and turn right (south) on that road if you want to get there. Once on the main trail, take the first right fork and then head right again at the bottom of the hill to get into the formations and hoodoos. I recommend going in the colder months because it can get very hot there in the summer. My photography group now has a tradition of going there every December when, if you’re lucky, you can get some shots with frost on the plants. That happened to us last December, and the experience and photos were awesome.

I made basic adjustments to this image in Adobe Camera Raw and then applied black and white and exposure adjustment layers in Photoshop. Since the image is rather busy, I attempted to simplify it by cropping from the bottom.

Crescent Moon

Crescent Moon

Today’s choice for photo of the day was an easy one since there was only one picture in the folder I had to archive.

People are fascinated with photographing the moon, and I’m often asked by my photography students how to do it. When someone asks me how to get good pictures of the moon, my immediate response is to visit http://www.nasa.gov. All of the photos there are awesome, and they’re public domain, which means they’re free, so you can use them for whatever you want.

Photographing the moon can be difficult because you’re dealing with such a bright light source set against a very dark background. Plus movement is an issue. Not only can your camera move and create a blurry image, but too long of an exposure can result from motion blur because of the movement of the earth and the moon. Shooting digital makes it easier because you can quickly experiment with different settings until you get what you want. You can also try the “Sunny 16” rule. Set your camera to manual mode, choose an aperture of f16, then match your ISO to your shutter speed. In other words, if you shoot at ISO 400, your shutter speed should be 1/400 sec. (ISO 800, shutter speed = 1/800, etc.).

I did some basic adjusting in Adobe Camera Raw to include taking the saturation to -100 and working with the sliders to get the outline of the moon to show. Shots like this can have a lot of noise, so I worked quite a bit in the detail tab to get rid of what noise was present.

Not a Black and White Ice Photo

Not a Black and White Ice Photo

Sometimes I just need to take a drive up to the mountains or somewhere just to get out in nature. That reminds me that I’m well overdue for that kind of trip. Anyway, this particular day I took a drive along the Arkansas River through Big Horn Sheep Canyon and stopped to take a few shots of the water and the ice.

I normally convert images like this to black and white to focus on the tonality instead of the blue tones that are common in ice and snow photos taken in the shade or in overcast conditions. I decided not to convert this image to black and white because I noticed a variety of colors and wanted to take advantage of the existence of the blues and greens. There are even some oranges from reflections of the canyon walls. I especially like the tiny sparkle of orange at the tip of one of the icicles. See if you can find it.

I did basic adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw, adding a lot of blacks, turning down the highlights and lightening the shadows. I pumped up the saturation and the vibrance to bring out the colors and increased the clarity. I also made some sharpening adjustments because the focus on the ice was a bit soft. I used the adjustment brush to bring down the exposure in a highlight area in the upper left and used the exposure tool (one of my favorites) in Photoshop to adjust the contrast and add a little pop.

Windy Peak

Windy Peak

I took this photo of Pikes Peak from the Mesa Overlook near Garden of the Gods. You are looking at snow blowing off the peak due to very strong winds, not a cloud. It is not unusual for us to see scenes like this in the winter.

I noticed all of the blowing snow coming off the peak as I was driving back home to Colorado Springs from Denver, so I decided to make a detour to get some shots. I had actually gone to Denver to see a billboard for the Broadmoor Hotel in which they used one of my photos.

There is such a huge difference between the before (bottom) and after (top) states, that I had to include both in this post. Looking at the original, you would think this image to be a good candidate for the trash bin. I first thought about making it into a black and white because of the tonality and the lack of color. Because it was taken late in the afternoon, I could see there was some orange in the clouds, so I decided to work with the colors in the HSL tab of Adobe Camera Raw after making basic adjustments to exposure, contrast, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity and vibrance. I added a gradient filter to darken the sky and another to lighten to foreground. I also adjusted the sharpness and removed a couple of distracting spots in the foreground.

This image is also an excellent example of why it’s important to shoot in Camera Raw. I couldn’t have done this with a jpeg file.

The Crooked Stairs of City Hall

The Crooked Stairs of City Hall

On Christmas Day 2008 I wandered around downtown Colorado Springs and Old Colorado City in search of interesting buildings, walls, murals, graffiti, etc. to use as backdrops for senior portraits. This was the perfect day for this adventure because no one was out on the streets. I had unobstructed access to everything I discovered.

This is a photo of the stairs of Colorado Springs City Hall. I love the way the railing cast the shadow on the stairs at this time of the day.

In Adobe Camera Raw I brought the shadows and blacks all the way down to darken and eliminate most of the detail in the shadow. I used the highlight slider, curves and adjustment brush to remove any harsh highlights. I also used the lens correction tool to straighten the lines. In Photoshop I used an exposure adjustment layer (one of my favorite tools) to adjust contrast, and I used the spot healing brush to eliminate the bright spots on the stairs that I found distracting.

The Feather Bonnet and the Tenor Drum

The Feather Bonnet and the Tenor Drum

I had a hard time deciding which photo to choose from this folder in my archives, so I decided to make this fun composite.

That is a photo of me when I used to play tenor drum for the Pikes Peak Highlanders. And no, that is not my hair nor the real shape of my head. I am wearing what’s called a feather bonnet, which was part of our formal uniform. It sounds like something reserved for ladies going to Easter mass, but a bonnet is essentially a hat with a chin strap, and this one happened to be made with ostrich feathers. Ostrich feathers are pretty cool unless you get them in your eyes and mouth while marching in a parade. The bonnet had a compartment in the top that was used to stow your glengarry (the other hat we wore), but I guess you could use it to stash your snacks or your parrot.

The portrait was taken in my living room with my Alien Bees strobes in front of a white wall. I was pretending to be a monkey scratching his head. I made basic adjustments to this image in Adobe Camera Raw and then opened it in Photoshop where I worked on cutting out the background. I used the quick select tool to make the major selection, the color range tool to pick up the stray feathers and the quick mask mode to refine the selection. I used the refine selection tool and adjusted the radius and the feather then cut out the background.

For the tenor drum photo, I placed the drum on top of one of the strobes to illuminate the skin and give it a nice glow. That image was placed in a layer behind the photo of me, and the canvas was expanded so I could show the edge of the drum and the name on the skin. I then used the color picker to select the color of the drum skin at the bottom of the image and filled in the bottom of the layer with that color using the paint bucket tool.