A little extra work

Two weekends ago I went on one of my photo adventures, hitting various scenic spots around the area and taking pictures. I spent a whole Saturday exploring and snapping, and then on Sunday I began processing the photos.

This time, rather than simply saving off the camera and uploading immediately, I tried editing each photo using some tricks I read about online. I was extremely pleased with the results; I feel like I’ve taken my first step out of casual pointing and shooting and into real photography.

First I evaluated each photo, rotating and cropping where necessary. Then I applied Image > Adjustments > Match Color > Neutralize, which I read about here on Sitepoint.com. I had used the other option mentioned in that article, Auto Color, before, but wasn’t always happy with the results. Match Color > Neutralize really helped make the color of my photos look natural. I was especially happy with the Color Intensity slider, which helped me bring out color without affecting detail.

For most of the daylight photos, Match Color > Neutralize was very beneficial, but it wasn’t necessary on all of them.

After rotating, cropping, and normalizing the colors, I went through a variety of adjustments. My friend Don posted a link on Facebook to this technique used by a photographer to enhance colors on his images. I ended up modifying the technique a bit, depending on the photo I was editing.

To begin with, I didn’t use the High Pass filter at all. Most of my photos were shot in bright daylight, and all that filter did was cause weird halos that didn’t add anything to the scene. However, I made heavy use of Blend Mode. I would duplicate the background layer, then change its blend mode from Normal to Soft Light (or, in a very few cases, Hard Light). Sometimes I’d Desaturate the top layer; other times I’d leave it the way it was.

I also fiddled with the opacity on the top layer to get the exact contrast and color pop I wanted, and on some photos I played with Curves and Levels to get richer contrast effects.

By the time I got to the last location, Thurmond Dam, the sun was setting. I had never managed to get a really good nighttime shot before, and I’m open to suggestions about shooting at night. For the shots of the dam from the Georgia side of the river, I propped my Nikon D60 against the side of a tree.

The editing methods listed above didn’t work quite as well for the low light shots. High contrast tended to destroy the details and it was hard to pull out color without making the photo look grainy. I’ll be interested to research and try out different techniques for night photography.

Any thoughts on the techniques I used for these photos? Do you know any shooting or editing tricks?

Shooting in RAW and color-correcting for the first time

I’m busy getting ready to head to the airport, so I don’t have a lot of time, but I wanted to go ahead and slap up these shots I took at the Canal the other day. Below you’ll find the original, unedited image, and then how I tweaked the image in Photoshop. I mostly used Saturation and Levels. I may have overdone it a little…but it was my first time. I’m allowed.

Savannah River Headgates Savannah River Headgates: color-corrected

Augusta Canal trail Augusta Canal trail: color-corrected

Augusta Canal Augusta Canal: color-corrected

Ant on Leaf Ant on Leaf: color-corrected

The last two pictures came out the best, I think.

There are tons more photos from the Canal, but I won’t have time to go through and edit them until I get back from England. I don’t have time to upload them unedited, either, so you’ll just have to wait ;)

Wanted: Entry-level digital SLR recommendations

I’ve grown increasingly unhappy with the quality of my digital photos. I feel that I could be doing so much more if I had a camera with more manual options. I think I’m ready to move to an SLR.

Even though I’ve been taking pictures since I was a teenager, I’m a novice when it comes to camera use. I don’t want to go out and spend several thousand dollars on a camera without knowing what features I want. Instead, I’d like to buy a gateway camera, something that I can use to get my feet wet in “real” photography. I’d like to spend a few hundred.

Anyone have recommendations?

Social media language study suggestion

I think it would be cool if a bunch of people studying a language would go out and take photos of signs written entirely in that language and upload them somewhere (probably Flickr, people always use Flickr for this sort of thing) and tag them so others can find them. Then we would have a huge group of real-life flash cards that we could use on our computers to familiarize ourselves with the vocabulary found on signs. It could be place names, common warnings, business names, sales, things like that. Basically, the idea is to give vocabulary (and how to write it) relevance.

I put some rather mediocre photos from 2001 up to start.

I’ve got a "gig"

Tomorrow I need to be up ridiculously early (which is why I’m up late, natch) because I’m meeting a group of bellydancers for a photo shoot.

And I’m the photographer!

This is more than a little crazy, and I’m more than a little nervous. I think my technique has improved, but I still mainly take detail and landscape photos.

Here’s hoping I can use some of what I’ve learned to capture the beauty of the dancers. Right now that seems like a pretty monumental task!

So yeah, maybe I should go to bed already…