Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Too bad this island is so ugly.

Yeah - it's amazing here. I've been to Maui twice, but this is my first trip to Kauai. It's nothing short of spectacular. And for some odd reason, I don't miss the freezing weather and snow in Cleveland at all. I wonder why.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Webinar: Nature Photography & iHDR Workflow

Due to popular request, we are hosting our Nature Photography Webinar once again. We've broken up the lessons into four separate sessions: two on Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 - and two more on the Feb 28th, 2010.

Registration: Nature Photography & iHDR Workflow

As always, RECORDED Sessions will be available for review by registered students for at least 4 weeks after the Webinar. About one week before class begins, registered students will be invited to download notes, sample images, and instructional videos for via ftp.

Session 1 – Nature Photography, Equipment, and Research
SUNDAY, Feb 21, 12:00 (Noon) PM - 2:00 PM (EST)

Session one is for students of all skill levels, and will focus on the basics of Nature Photography. After a brief discussion of composition and light, we will move on to discuss the equipment we use and how we use it. We will also talk about what it takes to shoot landscapes, and the research that helps us choose our shooting locations.

Session 2 - RAW processing
SUNDAY, Feb 21, 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM (EST)

During session two, we will teach students of all skill levels how to work with RAW files. We will explain the difference between file types and introduce the basics of Adobe Camera RAW, before walking students through the processing of sample images. Students will work together to make decisions about color balance, exposure, contrast, and more as they work together on images provided by the instructors.

Session 3 – Layers and Masks in Photoshop
SUNDAY, Feb 28, 12:00 (Noon) PM - 2:00 PM (EST)

The material presented in session three is critical to the understanding of our iHDR process. This session is recommended for intermediate and advanced students – and those who have completed sessions one and two. Students will learn the basics of layers and masks in Adobe Photoshop. Sample images will be provided, and students will work alongside the instructors as they learn to use layers, and create and refine masks. Students will learn simple and practical blending techniques, and will receive an introduction to manual High Dynamic Range blending.

Session 4 – iHDR
SUNDAY, Feb 28, 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM (EST)

Session four is our most advanced session. Students who wish to attend should have completed sessions one, two, and three – or should have a solid understanding of layers and masks, and a basic understanding of Adobe Photoshop and how it works. We will focus on processing bracketed images using our Intelligent High Dynamic Range blending techniques. Students will use critical skills from sessions two and three to process bracketed RAW images, and blend them using layers and carefully refined masks.

We HIGHLY recommend completing sessions 2 & 3 before attending session 4. We won't have time to go back and cover the concepts covered in sessions 2 & 3.

We hope to see you online!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Part 3 - Capturing Vibrant Colors

...continued from Capturing Vibrant Colors - Part 2...

The "Golden hours" are the moments right after sunrise and before sunset, when warm sunlight paints the landscape in rich magenta or gold tones. When the sun is low in the sky, soft, filtered sunlight makes it easier to get your exposure right in-camera - so capturing vibrant color is easier as well. Jay captured the golden light in this image of a young alligator just as the sun dipped below the horizon.
Dynamic weather conditions can serve to further enhance brilliant light during the golden hour. Stunning color from storm clouds may also provide reflections in water and on the ground. The warm light in the photo below comes from passing storm clouds - notice the fantastic light on the distant mountains.
After you have captured a photo, you'll need to process your photo. Be careful to choose the best possible white balance so that your colors are accurately portrayed and looking their best. Take a look at the two images below. Varina's shot from Yellowstone looks odd when it is processed using default white balance settings. The image has an unnatural blueish cast both on the ground and in the sky.
When the same photograph is processed using a "daylight" white balance (5500 K), the blue cast disappears. The colors in the photo look clean and natural, and the photograph seems much more inviting.
Tips for Capturing Vibrant Colors
  • Shoot during the "Golden Hours"
  • Look for dynamic weather conditions
  • Choose the appropriate white balance when processing (or in-camera if you are not yet using processing software)

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Gestalt - Proximity Principle

Previous posts on this subject:
Gestalt Figure/Ground Articulation
Similarity Principle

The proximity principle states that objects which are closer together will be seen as belonging together. Take a look at the picture below:Most people will perceive two groups of shapes, rather than sixteen individual circles. We can see the individual shapes, of course, but our brains process them as two distinct groups. The principle holds true even when the shapes in the group have nothing in common with one another. The unrelated shapes in the picture below seem to be divided into two groups - simply because of their placement within the frame.
The gestalt principle points out the fact that we tend to perceive separate shapes as a unified whole because of their proximity to one another.

So - the principle is simple enough... but what about photography? How does the proximity principle apply to the composition of a photograph?

Take a look at this shot from Paria Canyon in Arizona.
Hundreds of small patches of mud make up the foreground shape you see here... and yet we are not overwhelmed by the complexity of the photo. In fact, the image feels quite simple. It seems to contain just two elements - the interesting foreground pattern of patched mud, and the unusual "windowed" walls of the canyon. Our brains group the individual elements into groups. In this case, the proximity principle is working hand-in-hand with the similarity principle I wrote about in an earlier post.

Here's another example of the proximity principle at work:
In this case, the two main elements of the piece (aside from the water and sky) share an obvious relationship - they are both rocks. However, because they are at a substantial distance from one another, they appear as two separate entities within the image. Here, it is the lack of proximity that separates them in our mind. Of course, that physical separation is amplified by the obvious lack of similarity as well. So in this case, the principles of similarity and proximity are working in reverse.

Now, take a look at the water in this shot. It is made up of silky lines of light and shadow... but we tend to perceive it as a single element in the image. Why? The water seems to create a continuous sheet because the water in the foreground is visually similar to the water in the distance. The similarity principle is at work here - and because there is no separation between foreground and distance, the proximity principle is in effect as well.

Photographers and other artists use these principles all the time - usually without even realizing they are doing it. Some artists have a hard time visualizing a 3-dimensional scene as a 2-dimensional image, and understanding gestalt principles like these can be helpful.

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