A Better Reality


I know many of you out there are purists when it comes to your photographs, and that’s okay. Power lines, stop signs, annoying tourists stepping in front of your shot – all part of the moment. I don’t see it that way, and Photoshop was made for a girl like me.

I layered one shot on top of the other, letting the tulip line on the second layer cover the greenhouses and other “junk”. Then, I erased the pieces of the second layer I didn’t want and cropped the final photo slightly. I feel this draws the eye to the photographer more and provides a better sense of scale. She isn’t competing for attention. Power lines, stop signs, and tourists – good-bye!


A Walk in the Park

Whatcom Falls Park

I had to deviate from my Ireland posts to show everyone what a beautiful fall day it is in Bellingham, Washington…and also ask a question about HDR photography. Recently, I found the HDR Toning option in PhotoShop. I’ve used it on a few of my photos, with some manual fine-tuning. I’m not sure if I like the results yet or not. I haven’t yet tried the traditional method of taking several photos and using software to combine the images into an HDR image. Any thoughts on methods that work well or produce a good result?

In Desperate Need of a Do Over

Do you ever look back at your old photos just to appreciate how far you’ve come as a photographer? Do any of those old images shock and horrify you?

In the Site Stats section of WordPress, I like to browse through the “Clicks” to see what pictures people well, clicked on… I’m always curious about what images inspire people to linger a bit longer. Today, I found that someone clicked on a very old image from when I was in Ireland in 2010, and seeing it again horrified me. Back in October 2010, I had just started using a DSLR, and I just had to shoot everything manually because shooting in auto would have been too easy. Considering I had no concept of ISO at the time, it’s no wonder so many of my photos look like crap to me by today’s standards. On top of that, I thought I had to post process everything and bump up the saturation. God knows why. Anyway, I decided to re-do a couple of the pictures I posted on my blog so long ago and do a side by side comparison.

Let’s start with this sad example. What the heck was I thinking here? I can’t believe I posted this to my blog with the sky all over exposed and over saturated. Why did I think this looked good?

Do over

Next, let’s examine poor old Mary, who appears to be praying for less saturation and a sky color actually found in nature. Again, I was a little heavy-handed with the wrong buttons while editing. Natural is better.

Do over

And finally, we have Hore Abbey. Yes, truly an unfortunate name and a victim of post processing errors. In the first photo, the focus is on the cows in the background and the abbey is very dark. In the do over, I lightened up the foreground using “Levels” in Photoshop. Levels is one of my favorite tools – you can make minor corrections to a photo that make a big difference.

Do Over

I considered replacing the pictures in the posts from 2 years ago but ultimately decided against it. For better or for worse, that’s just where my skill level was at the time. My blog documents my journey through life and photography, and that journey isn’t always perfect.

A Little Dodge and Burn to the Rescue

I fought using Photoshop tools for a long time because I felt a good photographer shouldn’t need to alter their original work.   However, I’m finding that there are simply natural obstacles that want to ruin your pictures – like harsh sunlight.

Lately, I’ve been playing around with Black and White photos.   I decided to try the Dodge and Burn feature in Photoshop to clean up this one of my friend’s son, Landon.   Here were my issues with the original:

  • The clouds have no highlights
  • The white building in the distance competes with Landon for the eye’s attention
  • The railroad tracks are dull and flat

 Using the Dodge tool, I added the highlights to the clouds.  I used an exposure of about 5%, because it’s easy to monitor the gradual change and avoid that over-processed HDR look.  Next, I used Burn to eliminate the highlights from the white building.  Finally, I added highlights to the wood planks in the track to emphasize the wood grain. 

This is something I’ll continue to play around with until I get the hang of it.   A part of me also wants to crop the entire sky out and just go with Landon and the railroad tracks.


Noise Reduction

Was there life before Photoshop?  I cannot believe I stubbornly ignored this tool up until now.  My favorite feature this evening was the “noise reduction” tool.  It subtley erases the graininess of a photo, providing a smoother canvas.  

Here is a before and after shot to demostrate what I was able to do.  I’d been using Picasa for simple editing until now, but I could never get the vibrance or clarity that I get with my new best friend. 

Okay, normally the “before” comes first – but here’s the after.  It most closely resembles the actual color of my scarf. 

The before shot is obviously quite a bit darker.  The problem with photo editing programs like Picasa is that when fill light is added, the picture often becomes grainy.  In CS5, the noise reduction takes care of that little problem.

So attempt number 2 at Photoshop was also a great learning experience!  Again, I think this will be the source of endless fun in the airports on the way to and from Ireland next week.