Thursday, January 21, 2016

Weekly Challenge: Artistic, Red

This week's challenge from Dogwood Photography is "Artistic: Red--Shoot whatever inspires you. Red should be the focus of the image. Don't be afraid to be creative."

I used this artistic license to colorize an image in Photoshop. There's almost nothing you can't do in Photoshop, and there are thousands of tutorials out there. I used one from Phlearn about selecting and replacing colors. It was a chance to review the eyedropper tool and get more familiar with the hue/saturation adjustment layer.

The original image was of frost on a window. To me it suggested something a bit cosmological.

Red Cosmos
My wife had excitedly showed me a cut red pepper with a graceful structure within. I couldn't resist it either, so I'm including it in this weekly challenge. Maybe I'll get extra credit.

Red Pepper

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekly Challenge: Traditional Landscape

This week, the challenge from Dogwood Photography is "Landscape: Traditional--Shoot a beautiful landscape and share it with the world. Find a nice foreground and don't forget the sky."

The problem with shooting landscapes on a schedule is weather, of course. It wasn't until yesterday that my free time coincided with some pretty weather. I know, I know: you can shoot in all weather, or at least all the weather you can tolerate. But when both foreground and sky are part of the assignment, you need a certain amount of visibility.

Some incidental lessons from this assignment: Check your battery charge or (better) carry a charged spare. I always do, and sure enough one of them began to conk out while I was shooting. Wear boots. It's always muddy where you want to set up. I took my new infrared remote for the Nikon and used it for some tripod shots before the sun came up, together with the remote mirror-up mode on the D750 (press once, the mirror goes up; press again and the shutter trips. Nice.) At $20 the ML-L3 may be the cheapest Nikon gear I ever buy. Speaking of cheap, my wife kindly lent me a shower cap for a camera cover in case of rain. They're cheap or free and work pretty well.

A more important lesson, I think, is that I'm rushing when I'm out shooting. I had no time constraints, yet I hurried through some scenes. It's a bad habit. When I get back and start processing images it's a sure bet I'll wish I could do some over again: stuff in the frame that shouldn't be there, bad angles, poor composition, wrong exposure. I need to slow down.

Here's my landscape. It's on the Maryland shore of the Potomac River, where
Seneca Creek enters. The bridge once carried the C&O Canal over the creek. Does the bridge count as foreground? Hope so.

Seneca Creek at Potomac River

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Weekly Challenge: Self Portrait

It turns out that retirement does not cure procrastination, so I've decided to inject a little discipline into my photography this year. The 52 Week Photography Challenge, courtesy of Dogwood Photography, is an approach that seems useful as well as fun. There are three categories: Portrait, Landscape, and Artistic Impression. Each week presents a variation on one of the categories. Week One is "Portrait: Self Portrait - Start things off right with a 'selfie'! Explore the self-timer setting on your camera."

I've dabbled in this before (see this posting) but I certainly don't feel proficient. Today I set up next to the window for some indirect light and started shooting. I learned a lot.

First lesson: it's very hard to focus when you don't have a subject. Using a 105mm focal length makes for very shallow depth of field. At six feet and f/8, it's 4 inches (per the easy-to-use, free depth-of-field calculator at the Apple App store called TrueDoF-Intro). And I couldn't figure out how to use autofocus without a finger on the shutter release. So it was shoot, look at the image, adjust the focus, shoot again...pretty tedious.

Try to Stay Focused
It occurred to me that a cable release would help. Alas, my old cable release with the mini-phono plug doesn't fit my Nikon, which naturally has it's OWN connector. So I ordered a fairly cheap wireless remote that works on infrared. Did me no good in this session, though.

Next lesson: It's easy to forget basic details like background. And unruly hair, and blemishes, and so on. You can fix some of them in post, but it's better to get it right the first time.

Watch Background to Avoid Funny Hats

I liked the side lighting from the window, but without flash the shutter speeds are very slow even at ISO 1600. I needed to add a lot of noise reduction in post. If I were a serious portraitist I would have flashes. Waiting for the self-timer to trigger also leads to blinking.

Tired of Waiting for Self Timer
Speaking of exposure, I thought (looking at the camera display) that the lit side of my face was much too hot, so I adjusted the exposure down about 2.7 EV. But in post-processing it was clear that I overcompensated. Lesson: don't trust the camera monitor for exposure decisions. Some folks use histograms and little blinking tools to alert them to over/under exposure.  I guess I should join them. 

In the end I had two candidate images. They differ in aperture, f/10 versus f/8. I prefer the f/8 because it blurs the background a bit more and the light is a little better. Okay, one week down and 51 to go.

F/8, softer background

F/10, slightly sharper background